Farmer "looking down barrel" of prison sentence for killing steers

FARM Owner, Michael David Triggs, has been found guilty of criminal damage by unlawfully killing 11 of his neighbour’s steers which had strayed onto his land. 

Senior Magistrate Martine Kushner told him in court yesterday that he was “looking down the barrel,” of a custodial sentence.

However sentencing will not take place until January 16, 2018, following a pre-sentence report.

Additionally he will be sentenced for breach of his conditional discharge of a conviction for animal cruelty in 2016.

Prosecuting, Stuart Walker, told Ms Kushner that, on or before November 4, 2016, Mr Triggs destroyed 11 Aberdeen Angus steers belonging to Blue Beach Farm, owned by Mr Huw Grierson, after they had strayed onto his property.

He also cut off the ears of all but one of the cattle and cut the throats of some of them. All had been shot twice in the head.

Mr Grierson had been alerted to the incident on November 4, when a FIGAS passenger reported seeing dead cattle on a ridge on a neighbouring farm from a FIGAS flight. 
The FIGAS pilot later took aerial photos of the animals.

The next day, Mr Grierson accompanied two police officers and the senior vet, Steve Pointing, and others, onto the neighbouring Rodeo Farm and found the dead animals. One was in a pond and still had its ears and ears tags. These identified the animal as belonging to Mr Grierson.

On November 8, Mr Triggs was arrested in Stanley and interviewed by Police. He responded with “No comment” to all questions. His house and vehicles were also searched, and a .357 Magnum revolver, ammunition, and a butcher’s steel were all recovered by the police. The items were blood-stained and this was later confirmed as bovine blood. Bullets were recovered from the head of one of the animals, and these were later confirmed to have been fired from Mr Triggs’ revolver.

Mr Triggs did not deny he had killed the animals, but claimed he killed them lawfully as his property was at risk and he honestly believed that the owner of the cattle would have consented to having them killed in the circumstances. Continued page 3.

Several witnesses, including Mr Grierson, Mr Henry, a neighbour and Mr Triggs’ son-in-law, Mr Pointing, the senior Vet or the Department of Agriculture (DoA), and Sergeant McDade of RFIP gave evidence in court. The court also saw several photographs of the incident taken by police and Mr Triggs.

Mr Triggs also testified. Asked to explain why he had taken this course of action, he told the court that he had arrived from Stanley to find cattle in close proximity to his mobile home, and feared they would damage the building. He moved them away a few hundred metres on foot, then returned to his car for his gun and knife. Using a quad bike, he then drove the cattle some distance on to a ridge and proceeded to kill each in turn with a bullet in the head. 

He shot them again, “to make sure”. He cut the throats of a few, but his knife became blunt. He also cut off the animals’ ears and the ear tags.
One steer fell into a pond after being shot and Mr Triggs was unable to cut off its ears, as he had done with the other animals. 

When asked why he had removed the ears, he replied that he decided to provide the Police and the DoA with a report and wanted to use the ear tags as evidence. Asked where the ears and tags were now, he informed the court that he had thrown them away.

The Senior Magistrate asked Mr Triggs why, given he had taken photos of the surroundings of his mobile home and a dead steer, he had not simply taken photos of the ear tags. He replied that the batteries on his camera became flat.

Under cross-examination from Mr Walker, Mr Triggs confirmed there had been no damage to his home, but he suggested that the steers would probably have returned after he left the farm and could have caused damage in his absence.

Asked why he had not simply phoned Mr Grierson and asked him to remove the cattle, Mr Triggs said that he had left his phone in the car, and probably wouldn’t have had a signal anyway.
When questioned by the Senior Magistrate as to why he had not told Mr Grierson or the Police or the DoA about the incident during the five days between the culling and his arrest, he replied that he didn’t know, and that he had intended to report the incident.

Mr Grierson had earlier told the court that he would never have given permission for the animals to be killed. He also said that he had, “had no problems with Michael,” over the years, and expected a phone call from neighbouring farms when livestock strayed. 

Mr Grierson confirmed he had about 160 beef cattle and they had an average value of £650 each.